Six cas­tles that shaped a na­tion

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - BRITAIN - Game of Thrones.

For his lat­est TV series, pre­sen­ter Dan Jones has been on a mis­sion to un­earth the se­crets con­tained within the for­ti­fied walls of some of Bri­tain’s finest build­ings

Nine hun­dred and 50 years af­ter Wil­liam the Con­queror in­vaded Eng­land in 1066, relics of the Nor­man in­va­sion can still be found ev­ery­where on the Bri­tish land­scape. The Nor­mans were mas­ter cas­tle-builders, and in scat­ter­ing their for­ti­fied mil­i­tary bases all across the coun­try they lit­er­ally laid the foun­da­tions for what have be­come iconic mon­u­ments to Bri­tain’s his­tory and our na­tional her­itage. Mak­ing the sec­ond series of Se­crets of Great Bri­tish Cas­tles, we had the chance to nose around some of the most spec­tac­u­lar build­ings in the United King­dom. Some, like Ed­in­burgh Cas­tle, are mil­i­tary gar­risons. Oth­ers, like Leeds Cas­tle in Kent, are closer in spirit to stately homes. Some are glo­ri­ous ru­ins, while oth­ers – like Arun­del Cas­tle, seat of the dukes of Nor­folk – are still lav­ish res­i­dences for no­ble fam­i­lies who trace their de­scent back to me­dieval times. We picked these six cas­tles be­cause all have played a role in Bri­tish his­tory far beyond the nar­row con­fines of the Mid­dle Ages. The sto­ries we un­earthed at the cas­tles in this series sweep across 1,000 years of our na­tional past, from Vik­ing in­vaders to Tu­dor

Ed­in­burgh Cas­tle

When I was a child we lived in Ed­in­burgh – and I can still re­mem­ber trips on the bus along Princes Street with my mother, peer­ing up at the in­cred­i­ble cas­tle perched high on its vol­canic crag above the city, at the top of the Royal Mile. It is one of the UK’s most pop­u­lar tourist sites, and with good rea­son. It’s vast, it’s ex­tremely well pre­served and it puts on a pretty good show at the end of ev­ery sum­mer when it hosts the Mil­i­tary Tat­too. It’s known as “the most be­sieged cas­tle in Bri­tain”, hav­ing been as­saulted more than 20 times dur­ing its long his­tory. And it’s home to the gi­gan­tic can­non called Mons Meg – so vast it could fire a can­non­ball with a sim­i­lar di­am­e­ter to a Tom­a­hawk mis­sile a cou­ple of miles. Vis­i­tors can also see the Scot­tish crown jew­els and look around royal apart­ments dec­o­rated with roses and this­tles: a re­minder of the tan­gled his­tory of the Tu­dor and Stuart royal houses. James IV of Scotland and Mary Queen of Scots were two ca­su­al­ties of that fam­ily drama, and both have a per­sonal his­tory tied to Ed­in­burgh Cas­tle. With the pos­si­ble ex­cep­tion of Wind­sor, this is the grand­est and most sto­ried royal cas­tle in the Bri­tish Isles (ed­in­burgh­cas­tle.gov.uk).

Did you know: the “Black Din­ner” took place at Ed­in­burgh Cas­tle in 1440. The teenage Earl of Dou­glas and his younger brother were dragged from a ban­quet and mur­dered. It di­rectly in­spired the in­fa­mous “Red Wed­ding” episode in

Cardiff Cas­tle

One of the most in­trigu­ing cas­tles in Wales sits at the end of Cardiff ’s St Mary’s Street, a few min­utes’ walk from the fa­mous Prin­ci­pal­ity (Mil­len­nium) Sta­dium, the home of Welsh rugby. Most of Wales’s re­ally fa­mous cas­tles are around Snow­do­nia in the north, hav­ing been erected by Ed­ward I dur­ing the English in­va­sions of the late 13th cen­tury. But Cardiff cas­tle’s his­tory goes back much fur­ther, to Ro­man times. (You can still see a sec­tion of Ro­man for­ti­fi­ca­tion built into the outer wall of the cas­tle.) Its golden age is much more re­cent, though. Dur­ing the 19th cen­tury the cas­tle was owned by the Mar­quesses of Bute – Scot­tish aris­to­crats who be­came vastly rich in­dus­tri­al­ists, ex­ploit­ing the min­eral wealth of South Wales and re­de­vel­op­ing Cardiff city and its docks. The cas­tle’s glit­ter­ing in­te­ri­ors are the work of the ar­chi­tect Wil­liam Burges, who worked for the 3rd Mar­quess of Bute to cre­ate a glit­ter­ing neo-gothic fan­tasy and truly lav­ish fam­ily home. In 1947 the cas­tle was given to the peo­ple of Cardiff and it is now pre­served for

The im­pos­ing Ed­in­burgh Cas­tle, left, tow­ers over the cen­tre of Scotland’s cap­i­tal and has a long and bloody his­tory

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